Barbra Streisand is looking back at how she convinced Robert Redford to star in the 1973 film The Way We Were after he turned it down twice.
The romantic drama follows an unlikely couple, Katie Morosky (Streisand) and Hubbell Gardiner (Redford), who fall in love despite political and historical events. The pair must navigate their relationship while trying to overcome fundamental societal beliefs.
In an excerpt from her upcoming memoir, My Name Is Barbra, in Vanity Fair, the actress-singer opens up about what she and director Sydney Pollack went through to get Redford to star opposite Streisand.
“Bob is that rare combination … an intellectual cowboy … a charismatic star who is also one of the finest actors of his generation,” she wrote. “But like my husband, he’s almost apologetic about his looks, and I liked that about him.”
Streisand continued, “So I wanted Redford for Hubbell. But he turned it down.”
That’s when she asked Pollack for help since she knew he was so close with Redford.
“I have to give Sydney credit. He was as persistent as I was, because we both felt that only Redford would make the picture work,” Streisand wrote. “It’s like playing tennis … I knew my own game would go up when I was opposite a strong player.”
But Streisand explained in her memoir that she learned one of the reasons Redford didn’t want the part was because he felt that “the script was so focused on Katie that Hubbell’s character was underdeveloped. (He was right.)”
The excerpt continued, “Bob asked Sydney, ‘Who is this guy? He’s just an object …. He doesn’t want anything. What does this guy want?’ In Bob’s opinion, he was ‘shallow and one-dimensional. Not very real.’ ‘A pin-up girl in reverse,’ as Sydney put it.”
Streisand knew Redford was meant for the role so she told Pollack to give him anything he wanted: “Write more scenes to strengthen his character. Make it equal.” They even hired two writers, David Rayfiel and Alvin Sargent, to expand Hubbell.
“But Bob’s answer was still no. I was heartbroken,” she wrote.
Though producer Ray Stark wanted to move on and hire someone else, Streisand said Pollack begged for one more week to try and convince Redford.
“I told Ray to give it to him and kept praying. The negotiations went down to the wire. I was in the middle of filming Up the Sandbox in Africa, and one day I got a telegram from Sue Mengers that simply said: ‘Barbra Redford!’” Streisand wrote in her memoir. “That’s when I knew he’d finally said yes … and I was so thrilled!”
She added, “The courtship had been tough, but Bob’s reluctance had a big influence on the script and ultimately resulted in a richer, more interesting character.”
The movie went on to win two Oscars, including best original song for “The Way We Were,” which Streisand sang, and best original dramatic score.
Streisand’s memoir My Name Is Barbra hits bookshelves on Nov. 7.